Caffeinate Yourself

12 Great Neighborhood Coffee Shops

Because the best coffee shop is the one closest to you.

By Darren Davis and Allecia Vermillion August 23, 2016 Published in the September 2016 issue of Seattle Met

Image: Amber Fouts

Sure, sometimes a coffee shop is all about the coffee. But allegiances are also built on friendly staff, great food, comfy seating, a plethora of available power outlets, or all of the above. Here are a dozen shops that deserve their status as neighborhood hubs.

Capitol Hill

Analog Coffee

This Summit Avenue shop is all about tactile experience. Magazines and newspapers hang from the walls to be thumbed through while the record collection provides a soundtrack by way of everyone from the Jackson 5 to Destroyer. The drinks, pulled and poured by a discerning and unhurried staff, could be served in a fancy Gibraltar glass. But here you drink out of a mug: all the care but none of the fuss.

Various Locations

Zoka Coffee Roaster and Tea Co.

Though this cozy hub roasts its own beans (and boasts an apothecary of great teas), Zoka is perhaps best appreciated when setting up shop in its gallery of family-style tables, solo nooks, and couches. Go for a meeting or a study session. Stay because it’s more comfortable than any room in your house.

University District

Cafe Allegro

Participate in the decades-long tradition of academic caffeinating under the tall ceilings of the self-proclaimed oldest espresso bar in Seattle. This UW-adjacent hub, accessible through an old alleyway—a real old-cafe-in-Cambridge sort of situation—has strong coffee, tons of tables, and overflow seating upstairs for finals week.

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Cafe Allegro—one of the oldest coffee shops in the city—remains a popular study spot for UW students.

Image: Amber Fouts 


Milstead and Co.

A must-visit destination for any coffee pilgrimage, Milstead debuted in 2013 and helped kick-start the conversation about multiroasters in Seattle. Its rotating selection of single-origin beans from roasters around the country, brewed and pulled by PhD-caliber baristas, make this Fremont shop one of the city’s best places to sample impeccably composed drinks and hard-to-find coffees.

Capitol Hill

Joe Bar

On one of Capitol Hill’s most idyllic blocks, neighbor of Cornish College of the Arts and the late Harvard Exit Theatre, Joe Bar remains a year-round gem. Wait out the cold behind fogged-up windows with a crepe and a latte served in one of those satisfyingly round bowl mugs, or celebrate a summer weekend on the sidewalk with a late-afternoon iced coffee followed by an early-evening glass of wine.

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The Capitol Hill oasis Joe Bar, complete with crepes and loft seating.

Image: Amber Fouts 

Columbia City, Capitol Hill

Empire Espresso

The baristas at Empire take that extra step to make the day easier—brewing your cup of coffee by French press or AeroPress (your choice) and making cashew milk in house every morning for the lactose weary. It’s the little things that elevate quotidian caffeine into something of a personal indulgence. 

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Tougo Coffee Co., the Central District’s most popular multiroaster.

Image: Amber Fouts

Central District

Tougo Coffee Co.

Don’t be ashamed of a sweet tooth at this multiroaster. The baristas have chops and can dial in a citrusy Ethiopian espresso with the best, but you’ll get no side-eye when ordering menu offerings like the shaken cold brew or horchata iced coffee. Chase your bliss. It’s encouraged. 

Capitol Hill

Porchlight Coffee and Records

As the name implies, Porchlight does two things well. The coffee menu is on trend in its simplicity, accompanied by a record collection curated for the variant tastes of the city. Everything from the beverages and the music down to the rotating art and minimal decor is a window into what’s cool right now on the Hill.

Capitol Hill, Montlake, Wallingford

Fuel Coffee

Fuel promises a coffee shop when you just need a coffee shop: small, quiet hideaways on otherwise busy streets where there’s always an open table and the staff is more about pouring you a correct macchiato than trying to expand your palate with a single-farm this or that; a three-refills-and-a-sandwich-while-you-catch-up-on-emails sort of coffeehouse. 

West Seattle

Realfine Coffee

What used to be an auto garage at the end of the West Seattle Bridge now houses a charming coffee pit stop. The space is small, with just two long tables and a wood bar with stools—not ideal for putting down roots in the afternoon. But Realfine provides a perfect spot for a quick tune-up by way of an Americano before that morning commute to the office. 


All City Coffee

Sometimes it feels like a diner, packed with locals nibbling on light bites. Or maybe it’s more of a saloon, with bikes hitched out front and chairs spilling out onto the sidewalk. Even though it’s located on the neighborhood’s north end, All City feels like the center of Georgetown. 206-767-7146 


Makeda and Mingus

A little disheveled and full of potted plants, incongruent artwork, and a few pillowy couches, Makeda might as well be home to Seattle coffee’s eccentric aunt—one who can brew a great cup of coffee (and has an interesting espresso collection). It’s easy to miss, tucked away off of Greenwood Avenue, but that just adds to its charm. 

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